Lars Hedegaard, whom regular readers have met numerous times in this space, is the president of the Free Press Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet) in Denmark. He sent us the following account in an email, and has given us his permission to publish it.
Wonderful Copenhagen — home of the head bashers
By Lars Hedegaard, President of The Free Press Society
If you happen to be a slow starter in the morning, there is no better wake-up call than a nationally disseminated suggestion that somebody kick your teeth in.
Consequently I woke up fast on the morning of November 2 2008 when a friend notified me that a blogger with our national paper of record — Politiken — had proposed just this course of action.
Here are his thoughts:
“Let us imagine 10-15 hooded Islamists lying in ambush behind a community center in Copenhagen to assault a spokesman for The Free Press Society, e.g. Lars Hedegaard. As he arrives, the ‘brave’ assailants jump Hedegaard and his friend (10-15 against 2) and they shout: ‘Let’s smash him’. They kick and beat Hedegaard and his friend in the head until a police car arrives.”
The point the blogger is trying to make is that if a spokesman for The Free Press Society had been attacked, it would have been all over the front pages, whereas an attack on two leftwing activists and politicians in the town of Aarhus a couple of days ago did not get nearly the attention it deserved.
Now, who is this blogger?
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His name is Rune Engelbreth Larsen. He has been on the Politiken payroll since 2004 and has close ties to the paper’s chief editor Toeger Seidenfaden, with whom he has co-authored a treatise on the Danish cartoons. (Rune and Toeger “understood” the Islamist point of view and lambasted our prime minister for not seeking instructions on the practice of free speech from 11 ambassadors from Islamic countries that don’t know what free speech is.)
The Aarhus attack is part of a long history of political violence that has afflicted the city. For years various extremist factions have been slugging it out. It has been the extreme left organized as “The Anti-Racist Network” and before that as “Anti-fascist Action” (AFA) against “White Pride” — originally a group of football supporters. Most of the time the right-wingers have had the upper hand and on the night between Friday and Saturday, a spokesman for the “Anti-racists” was indeed attacked and severely beaten by 10-15 people lying in wait.
Their identity is unknown, for the police didn’t catch any of them, but it stands to reason that they have connections to White Pride.
It should also be mentioned that the victim of the assault and his companion, who managed to escape, are prominent members of the left socialist party, The Unity List, which is represented in parliament.
So Rune Engelbreth Larsen is undoubtedly justified in describing the incident as an assault on politicians whose opinions the assailants detested and as such a serious attack on the very foundations of democracy.
But exactly what has all this got to do with The Free Press Society, which is not a political organization and whose only purpose is the unconditional defense of free speech? Why does our blogger revel in fantasies of free speech advocates getting their heads bashed in unless he entertains the notion that free speech is somehow inimical to “anti-racism” or “anti-fascism”? Or to put it in simpler terms — that there is something inherently “racist” or “fascist” or right wing about the demand for free speech?
Unfortunately, this seems to be exactly what he thinks and this view appears to be widespread on the Danish left.
This is a notion that has been gaining ground since the middle of the 1980s and is closely linked to the lamentable fact that free speech is not permitted when it comes to Islam.
And it is a strange phenomenon indeed. You can say anything you like about Christianity, about capitalism, about gay marriage, about Israel. In Denmark you are even free to say that the Holocaust never took place. It will not make you very popular, but nobody will come and arrest you. You are perfectly welcome to declare yourself a Nazi or say that Buddhism or Hinduism is ridiculous or despicable. That the Earth is flat.
Only Islam cannot be discussed freely. And organizations that insist on treating this religion and its adherents in exactly the same way as they would treat any other phenomenon or group of people are automatically labeled racist or xenophobic or as belonging to the extreme right bordering on fascism.
In fact the very concepts of racism and xenophobia are now rarely used outside the context of Islam and Muslims.
That is why Politiken’s blogger, when racking his brain for a fitting victim on which to exact poetic revenge for the assault on his friends, will come up with an advocate of free speech.
He is right, of course. Free speech will eventually cause any untenable ideology, religion or Weltanschauung to unravel — including his own.